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All foreigners must have a valid passport and visa to enter Lebanon. Passports must be valid for at least six months. Visas can be obtained in advance at Lebanese embassies and consulates around the world. Nationals of many countries can also obtain business or tourist visas upon arrival at the Beirut Airport and at other ports of entry on the Lebanese border. At the Beirut Airport, visa stamps can be purchased at a window directly across from passport control. You can pay in cash in U.S. dollars or Lebanese pounds. The price of a 15-day visa is US$17 (LL25,000). A single entry, three-month visa is US$35 (LL50,000).
Contact the Lebanese embassy or consulate in your country or see the General Directorate of General Security website for additional visa information.
Important Note: Travelers holding passports that contain visas or entry/exit stamps for Israel are likely to be refused entry into Lebanon.
All ordinary personal effects are exempt from customs duty.
The official Lebanese currency is the Lebanese pound or lira (LL). Notes are available in denominations of: LL1,000; LL5,000; LL10,000; LL20,000; LL50,000; and LL100,000. There are also LL250 and LL500 coins.
U.S. dollars are used widely throughout the country. Restaurants, hotels, and stores often quote their prices in U.S. dollars, and many establishments will convert and provide U.S. dollar prices for you upon request. If you plan to use U.S. dollars, it is advisable to bring small bills (US$1 to US$20 notes).
The US$/LL exchange rate is relatively stable, hovering around US$1=LL1,500. The appreciation of the Euro since early 2002 has benefited European travelers. The Euro/LL exchange rate has fluctuated from €1=LL1,400 in June 2002 to €1=LL1,800 in April 2006. Check the Yahoo! Currency Converter for the latest exchange rate before you go.
Money or travelers checks can be exchanged at banks, private money exchange shops, and major hotels. Major credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diners Club) are accepted at most large establishments throughout the country. ATMs are also widely available in Beirut and larger cities and will usually dispense both U.S. dollars and Lebanese pounds.
While Arabic is Lebanon's official language, English and French are widely spoken. Most Lebanese speak at least two or three languages, and visitors will find no problems communicating. Many establishments provide signs, menus, and information in both Arabic and English.
Lebanese time is G.M.T. +2 hours in winter (October to March) and +3 hours in summer (April to September), when daylight savings time is observed.
Shops and businesses are typically open Monday through Saturday, 9:00-18:00. Hours vary, and in summer many establishments close early. Restaurant hours vary, and many restaurants, especially in Beirut, are open late.
Banking hours are Monday through Saturday, 8:30-12:30. Working hours for government offices and post offices are typically 8:00-14:00.
Thanks to its diverse population and different religious groups, Lebanon has a full calendar of official holidays. Although all banks, government offices, and schools are closed on holidays, it is often possible to find shops and restaurants open for business.
Holidays with Fixed Dates:
New Year's Day – January 1
Christmas (Armenian-Orthodox) – January 6
St. Maroun's Day – February 9
Labor Day – May 1
Martyrs' Day – May 6
Resistance and Liberation Day – May 25
Ascension Day – August 15
All Saints' Day – November 1
Independence Day – November 22
Christmas – December 25
Religious Holidays with Moveable Dates:
Catholic Good Friday
Orthodox Good Friday
Ras As-Sana (Muslim New Year)
Eid Al-Fitr (three days)
Eid Al-Adha (three days)
Moulid An-Nabi (Prophet Muhammad's Birthday)
While the telephone system in Lebanon is well-developed, there are few public pay phones, and international phone calls are expensive. Most Lebanese use mobile phones, and coverage extends throughout the country.
The country code for Lebanon is (961). This is followed by the local area code and the telephone number. The area code for mobile phones is (03) and the area code for Beirut is (01). If you are dialing Lebanon from outside the country, omit the (0) in the area code.
There are Internet cafés available throughout Lebanon, and many larger hotels now offer high-speed and wireless Internet access for free or for a small fee.
Electric current is 110/220 volts, 50 cycles. A two-pin plug, with round pins is commonly used (Type C, similar to many European countries), but other types of plugs are also in use so it is best to check before you go.
Lebanon is a developed country with relatively good health facilities. Similar to travel to other foreign countries, hepatitis A and B vaccines are recommended; also make sure tetanus-diphtheria and measles vaccinations are up-to-date. A typhoid vaccine is also recommended for travel to Lebanon.
Although Beirut's tap water is considered safe to drink, it's probably best to drink bottled water as the Lebanese do. As is the general traveler's rule, to be absolutely safe drink water only from bottles with intact caps, do not take ice in your drinks, and eat only cooked food and fruits that you can peel.